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Making Jesus a Priority

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“In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.”
“When I am alone, give me Jesus.”
“When I come to die, give me Jesus.”

Jesus.

When I think, speak and sign His name, a harvest of emotions surface. I want to hold on to the power of His name. The greatest cataclysm in this life is the awareness of so many “Christians” existing in the world. Those who attend church week after week, those who have a general belief in God, yet sadly those same neighbors, friends, coworkers and family believe those factors are enough to identify themselves as a “Christian.” Where is the passion to live with Christ-like conviction and purpose? Where is the urgency of pursuit and refusal to walk through each day suppressing the joy of the Lord in your heart given to you by Christ when He made you new? We express our love for Him, but we are more satisfied in going about our day to day, loving only ourselves.

I’m learning more and more that the days I don’t start with Jesus and spend time with Him, my flesh suffers. He deserves the highest honor by the first fruits of my time, but it is more than what He yearns for me to do. It truly has become a deep tangible desire in my being, to place Him above all else and really know Him as a close intimate friend.

It is not merely enough to go to church once a week. It is not merely enough to say a prayer and be baptized. It is not merely enough to ask and hope your needs will be fulfilled. Would you eat only once a week? Would you bathe once a week? Would you talk to your best friend only once a week? In order for your body to remain healthy physically, we must eat appropriately and practice good hygiene. To grow in relationship with our family and friends, we must communicate and spend time together. To have a solid growing fruitful connection with Christ, He MUST become a priority. He must reign over all else.

The term “Christian” comes from the Greek word christianos, a word formed from the Roman style meaning, “an adherent of Jesus.” This literally means those “stuck to” Jesus.

This term was not commonly used until after His ascension. Are you “stuck to” Jesus? Do you believe He is with your every step, every word and every action whether minuscule or significant of every day?

2 Peter 1:10 urges us to consider our options. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” We can choose to follow Christ or not, but if you say “yes,” your daily growth should be exponential.

It is time to wear our “Christian” royal sash proudly. We have the richest gift by choosing to follow Him. His riches are unfolded every moment of the day if we seek and earnestly desire to walk close as a brother with Him.

In the gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, we meet the twelve disciples. Nearly all of the accounts of the calling of the disciples are similar in nature. Jesus chooses them, greets them in person commanding them to, “follow me,” and immediately these men stop what they are doing and abandon their post to be with Jesus. James and John even leave their father to follow Him. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” Matthew 4:22

Some other examples of obedient people in scripture are these:

In Genesis 6 we see one of the first examples of an obedient believer. Abraham was told in Genesis 6 to “leave your father and mother and go to the land I will show you.” He did not argue, He simply took his family and left.

The Apostle Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Jesus even spells out to a crowd in the book of Luke, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

I recall an instance in my life many years ago in which I knew God was calling me to walk away from a friendship. It was a difficult decision. This friend and I were very close, but every time I saw her, I was put in compromising situations. I knew the Lord was asking me to cut ties. I did and it was a lonely time in my post college years. After many months of absence from this friend, the Lord blessed me with friends who, to this day, continue to build up my life and consistently point me towards the Father. These friends did not ask me to choose between my faith convictions and the world. A true follower in the faith will come along side you, they will pour into you with truth and they will always point you to the One who holds tomorrow.

In closing, think about these three questions:

What would it take for you to live with reckless abandonment for Christ?

What are you willing to sacrifice to be His child?

What is holding you back?

DESIRES OF THE HEART

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Studying scripture as a whole is crucial for gaining true Christ like wisdom. Christians often end up traveling down a dangerous road, extrapolating a verse and molding it to mean something it really does not mean. Digging deep into scripture allows for God to enlighten our mind to truly see in His word for what He really means. Psalm 37:4 is a popular example. As a society, this verse is often misinterpreted to mean, “if I do good, good will come to me.” Nowhere in scripture does God promise this and it is certainly not the intended meaning for verse 4 either.

Verse 4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, it defines “delight” as “a high degree of pleasure.” Essentially, live with the delight, pleasure or joy of the Lord at all times.

A true redeemed believer’s goal is to passionately know God, for who He is as the One True Creator God, for the sole purpose of delighting in Him. When we know God, His desires become our own desires. It may seem at that point we are getting what we want, but we are actually receiving what God has intended for us all along because we are walking in unison. Our hearts begin to beat to the same desires.

Pastor John Piper helps us understand this verse even better. He says, “When we enjoy God himself, the desires of our heart are shaped in accord with our delight in him.”

Then our dreams, goals and heart felt desires never oppose God’s desired plans for us. Actions of immortality are not of God and therefore not what He desires for you. Sin, remember is what causes separation between us and God until we come to the saving knowledge of what was done through His Son Jesus. By doing things apart from what scripture teaches us, even if we like it, is never God’s design for us.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what it means to delight in God, how can it be implemented in our lives day to day? First, you must establish a relationship with God. If you have not put your faith in Christ fully by asking forgiveness over your sins and deciding to follow Him, that must be your first step. It is only then can we look at how to actively delight in the Lord.

One of the biggest perks to becoming a believer in Christ is the way your mind begins to work. God begins to show you things you could not comprehend before. Learning His qualities and seeing His nature through one on one time with Him is not only essential, but exciting! The more we acquire knowledge through His word the more we see His divine nature in the Person of God.
Secondly, God is personal and intimate. He is not only ruler of the universe, but our Savior and dearest friend. We need to have both reverence for His high standing and confidence in building a friendship with Him.

Finally, we delight in God when we worship. One thing I love is the beauty of the ocean. I love to look at it and swim above and below it. When I am away from it, I long for it. (I could say the same about the Lord). When I got certified to SCUBA dive with my husband, I remember our first trip out sixty feet underwater. I was stunned by the beauty. The colorful coral reefs and varieties of fish. I was in constant awe thinking, “God you are amazing!” What we experience in the naturalness of His creation, He created it all for our enjoyment. He designed beautiful landscapes and creatures for us to be overwhelmed with thanksgiving, being led to worship Him.

Psalms 150 says, “Let everything that has breathe praise the lord.”

The Testimony of Jesus

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Jesus Christ has the ultimate testimony. The tendency to put Jesus in the category of the human testimony is interesting because He is both God and man. It is impossible for us to know everything which occurred during His human existence, but as we study Him it quickly becomes obvious what we can gain from His time on earth.

Jesus was God incarnate. This means God made Himself flesh and walked among us as a man. Although He was fully man, He was also fully God. His testimony gives us hope and is paramount in understanding our own.

The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ was revealed through hundreds of biblical prophecies recorded long before He was born. Here are just a few:

BIRTH:

Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

LIFE:

Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

DEATH:

Isaiah 53:5

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”

Even though the prophecies recorded were abundant and very clear, many doubted He truly was the Christ. Others firmly believed in His arrival.

Mary and Joseph were seen in God’s eyes as righteous and were chosen to be earthly parents to Jesus. On two separate occasions, Mary and Joseph were visited by Angels who foretold what would take place. (See Matthew Ch. 1)

After His birth, Wise Men traveled to visit and worship Him. Still others, like King Herod, sought to seek Him out to kill Him.

The only glimpse we have of Jesus in scripture before His adult ministry was when He was about twelve years old. He traveled to Jerusalem with His parents and for the Feast of the Passover they unknowingly left Him behind. After several days of traveling back and forth, Mary and Joseph finally found Him in the temple sitting among the Teachers. They were fully enthralled at His teaching and even astounded by His understanding and answers. (See Luke 2:41-52) After a reprimand from mom and dad expressing their worry and searching, Jesus’ reply is almost comical. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

As Jesus began His adult ministry, I want to point out a few key characteristics that strike me as phenomenal. I believe them to be paramount in understanding what He exemplified while on earth.

Jesus was a Selfless Servant:
He gave up His seat at the right hand of God. (Philippians 2:7)
He let John the Baptist, baptize Him. (Matthew 3:14)
He washed the disciple’s feet (John 13:1-20)
He forgave countless sinners (Luke 7:48, Acts 16:31)

Jesus was Sinless:
Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4)
He willingly went to the cross (Mark 10:45)
He was perfect (Matthew 5:45)

Jesus was Relational
Chose the disciples (John 1:35-51)
He taught crowds (Matthew 5-7)
Jesus preformed miracles (John 6)

Jesus was Mistreated
He was subjected to ruthless physical abuse (John 19:1-7)
He was mocked and faced rejection (John 18:39-40, Mark15:29-32)

Jesus was Obedient
He came to die. (John 19:16-30)

He. Came. To. Die.

Yes, He did incredible things and spoke with mind numbing righteous conviction while on earth, but the ultimate purpose for His coming to us was His own physical death. Physical Death, so He could take my dirt and wipe it on Himself and in doing so breathe into me Spiritual Life. The fullness of death is not something anyone has undergone and survived, except Jesus. It is because of Jesus, when our physical life ends, if we have been redeemed, we will glory with Christ in our eternal life.

Jesus led (John 16:33), called (Matthew 4:18-22), befriended (John 13:23), taught (John 13:1-17, Matthew ch. 5-7), healed (John 11), and sacrificed (John 19). He was fully God and fully man. He experienced acceptance, rejection, joy, emotional pain, physical pain and death. He walked on this earth like us, so when it came time for Him to die on the cross, His testimony would prove His true desire to be connected to us. He was willing to experience all the same earthly trials we do because of sin, except He did them without sinning. This gave us a perfect example to follow in hopes that our lives could have less sin once we decide to seek after Him.

He is Jesus. He is the Son of God. He is our Savior, friend, healer and redeemer. He is what we should aspire to be like.

A True Friend in Jesus

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I am honored this week to share another powerful devotional written by my friend Jeff Braunns. Jeff, thank you for seeking the Father’s guidance on what to share with others to help them grow closer to Christ. ~Lindsey

Devotional Author: Jeff Braunns
ASL translation provided by: Lindsey Berger

As you grow and mature in your faith you will find that the worldly things you use to find joy in will leave you.
You will start to see what is truly right from wrong. God will open your eyes and let you see the way this world is. You will no longer have the desire to live like you did.
Don’t get me wrong. You will be tempted!
Even Jesus was tempted.

Micah 6:8
“He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
When you come to know Christ and really start to follow what God has for you, people will notice.
At some point in your new life you may have to make hard decisions with the people you call your “friends.”

1 Peter 4:4
“They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, and wild living, and they will heap abuse on you.”
It’s hard to turn from the world. For many years you found so much comfort, and fun in it. The world fills you with that “feel good” feeling.
However, when you’re all alone and your “friends” all have left, you see this world for what it truly is!
Sacrifice is part of being a Christian. Following God, you will sacrifice much daily. Your body will start to get tired and you will feel like it would be a lot easier if you just gave in and just went back to the way things used to be!

It is easier to do that. I don’t know a true follower of Christ that wouldn’t tell you different.
Remember, you have found a new friend in Christ. God will bring great and wise people into your life that you can call a true friend.
Don’t ever feel alone when you are walking the path of Christ!

The Grip Strength of God

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To succeed in this Christian life, we must be tethered to our Heavenly Father’s side. Many of us claim Christ but live like the world. Recently, I asked myself this question, “If there was documented footage of your daily interactions with others, your habits and your internal thoughts, would your life point others to Christ?” I want you to ask yourself the same. Unfortunately, I could easily answer this question in complete honesty. It led me to a low place covered in embarrassment over how I allow my flesh to lead me at times.

Fortunately for those of us who are believers, we have an extremely loving God that desires relational intimacy with His sons and daughters who come after Him. In my shame, the Lord lead me to a quiet place to communicate with Him my faults, my fears and my current failings. I did not feel chastised, but rather, I felt a flood of His love and forgiveness.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul tells us:

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

God does not draw us to Himself for the purpose of abandonment. If you have accepted Christ and repented of your sins, your heart is no longer dead but alive. Christ has washed you white as snow.

Often, we give up on ourselves and we should for good reason. As people, we cannot be trusted, without Jesus, we will always be sinful. Temptation leads us to be swayed by the lies of the world and sometimes it can be easy to buy in. We trust the world to know our heart and judge us for our shortcomings, rather than looking inward to the one that lives inside us by trusting His perfect promises.

We accept this personal defeat and follow the lies Satan has shouted at us. We become bombarded, tempted to look for joy in other things. We wonder why we feel unfulfilled, sad and alone. TOO OFTEN we let Satan win. BUT WHY? What would happen if instead, we looked to heaven and asked God for rescue through His mighty power? What would happen if we used our knowledge of scripture to speak truth over the lies? We would push back the darkness. We would joyfully embrace our identity with confidence because of the One who created us and set us free. We would truly love God above all else.

R.C. Sproul said it best; “I like to look at it this way: I’m walking the Christian life with my hand in God’s hand. If my perseverance depended upon my holding tightly to God’s hand, I would surely fall away because at some point I would let go. But I believe that the Scriptures teach us that God is holding my hand, and because he is holding my hand, I don’t have to fear that I will fall ultimately and finally.”

Persecution

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When you give your life to Christ, Satan, who you formerly served in your life apart from God, becomes consumed with thwarting your plans to remain free from sin. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways and when you are targeted because of your faith in Christ, you can experience persecution. Every Christian at some point in their walk with God will experience persecution. If you are not experiencing it now, you will eventually. If you are experiencing it now, stay positive, hope has come for you already.

A lot of us think persecution is strictly for those who are in heavily populated areas of other religiously fruitful locations. Christians in the Middle East or Christians in China. Christians in America are targeted today like never before. This American culture we live in is evil. Persecution impedes on our human liberties on a daily basis. We are bombarded from every angle, backed into a corner to support ideals that spit in the face of everything our Jesus stands against.

Plenty of people in scripture felt the oppression of persecution in their day. Let’s look at a few examples.

The first example I want to mention in scripture is a man named Stephen. In Acts 8, Stephen is martyred for his faith in Christ. Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of Christians blinded on the road to Damascus, is believed to be responsible for the stoning of Stephen.

Acts 7:54-60 says, “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Of course we know Saul of Tarsus was redeemed on the Damascus road in Acts 9 and given the new name we know him lovingly by in the New Testament, Paul. He suffered immense persecution for the sake of the Gospel. He recounts his struggles in 2 Corinthians 11: 24-28 and says, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Aside from all of this, Paul is believed to have been beheaded by sword after his last imprisonment for his faith.

Another amazing example is John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a cousin to Jesus and a great man of faith. In the first chapter of John he was baptizing men who came to him at the Jordan river. Many thought he was a prophet and he confirmed he was merely set to prepare the way for the true Messiah soon to be appearing to them, Jesus. He devoted his life to serving Christ and sharing of His miraculous works.

In Matthew 14, John the Baptist is thrown into prison after angering Herod the Tetrarch. Herod had a brother named Philip. Philip’s wife was Herodias. Herod wanted Herodias for himself, so he divorced his wife and Herodias divorced Philip. John was vocal about this union being unlawful, so because of his outcry, he was put in prison. Later on, the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod at his birthday celebration. He promised her that whatever she wanted would be hers for her lovely display of affection.

Matthew 14:8 says, “Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.”

Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” We want the world to like us, but the choices we make to follow Christ will always put us in opposition with the world.

Peter said in 1 Peter 4:13-14, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

I LOVE the power of this verse. If you are insulted, it is because the Spirit of glory rests upon you. When you face trials, persecutions and rejections from this world because of your faith in Christ, do not be dismayed but rejoice. This means the worlds sees Christ in you and because of that they shudder. They do not want to change so they will attack you because you expose their evil. Christ is always fighting on your side and the great heroes of the faith have shared in your same feelings. When you are rejected or cast aside remember God is glorified by your commitment to your faith.

Joseph’s Heart to Follow God

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Joseph’s Heart to Follow God
Devotional Author: Jeff Braunns
ASL Translation provided by: Lindsey Berger

Remember the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors? What a great story. It can be found in Genesis chapters 37-50. I truly encourage you to read the entire story. If you read the whole story you will find that Joseph always found favor with God, but many people were jealous of him. Joseph was very obedient to God. Joseph’s brothers hated him and they were filled with jealousy because he also had great favor from his father. His brothers would eventually throw him into a pit and then sell him into slavery, but even then, he remained obedient to God. Joseph was blessed by God in everything he did.

 

Genesis 39:5
“From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.”

God will bless you in everything you do, but you must first remain obedient and trust Him. Being obedient to God is not easy. It will get harder the more you learn to trust and rely on Him.  Joseph never wavered in his trust and obedience to God. He was tempted by his master’s wife to sleep with her many times, but he remained strong in his faith with God. Joseph was thrown in prison because he would not sleep with his master’s wife and she lied to have him put there. Joseph eventually got out of prison and became a very powerful man in Egypt.
God wants to bless you and do great things for you, but bad behavior is not rewarded. We’re God’s children and although He does love us very much, jealous people like Joseph’s brothers will not find themselves in favor with God.  Here is another great verse to remind us of people who are like Joseph’s brothers.

2 Timothy 3:2
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.”
Even people who didn’t know God could see how much God blessed Joseph with wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Throughout Joseph’s story we see something God gave him, the great gift of being able to interpret dreams. This is what helped Joseph be freed from prison.

 

Genesis 41:38
“And Pharaoh said to all his servants, ‘can we not find a man like this, in whom is the spirit of God?’”
Pharaoh saw that the gift Joseph had was from God. As Christians we are called by God to stand out from the world. The bible tells us to live in this world, but not to be a part of it. Jealousy can tear down even the strongest of people! Jealousy is of this world and has no place in the life of a Christian. That’s why we as Christians must be obedient to God and listen to what the bible has to teach us.

Writing Your Testimony

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You will notice on our home page that you can watch/read my personal testimony at any time. I am proud to be able to share with you my story of redemption and how God spoke into my life to make me whole. If you are a believer, it is so beneficial for you to know your testimony. If someone asks you why you follow Jesus, you need to have an answer ready.

1 Peter 3:15 says,

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Today I am going to challenge you to write your testimony. Do not freak out! I am going to guide you through the whole process.

People will argue about the bible until the end of time, but people can never argue about your testimony. What you have experienced in life can only be known if you share it. As a believer, it is important that you share your story. It shows your passion for the gospel and what you share with others can ignite a fire in their spirits too.

Identifying your testimony

You must first identify the moment you first came to Christ. Think back to the day you remember giving your heart to Christ. What was your life before Christ and what drew you to making the change in your heart the day you said, “I want you to lead my life?” Think about how you were spurred to move forward with the decision to give Him everything. That my friends, is your testimony. The day you gave your life to the Lord and told Him to take control. If you do not have an experience like that, or you are not sure if you have ever done that, today is the perfect day for salvation! You cannot have a testimony yet until you first step out in faith to follow Him. You can only testify to something with confidence when you have assurance of it being solidified in your life.

Why write a testimony?

Now that you have identified your testimony, the moment in which you prayed to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, I want you to write it down. When you write anything down, the chances of your mind making into muscle memory dramatically increases. If you see it on paper, you are able to add or take away details to further ground your experience. It will make you all the more confident in how you share it. If you are better prepared, your sharing will come more naturally because you have spent time thinking of the power in which God really changed you.

It also becomes a comfort to your soul. There may be times when the enemy tries to convince you that God does not love you. He may try to speak lies of the confidence in your coming to faith. Writing down everything will be a solidification in your heart and soul anytime you wonder. You can pick up your testimony, read it to yourself and feel encouraged of God’s intervention and life change upon your path.

How to share your testimony

You have identified and written down your testimony, now what? Sharing your testimony can feel awkward at first and even uncomfortable. I promise, the more you are able to do this, the more confidence you will feel and the more excitement you will radiate.

You will want to have different versions in mind to practice. How can you practice your testimony to be 30 seconds long, 1 min and 3 mins? Think of it like a mini speech. If someone you know is struggling with something and you feel nudged to share your faith, you can throw in a short 30 sec bit by relating to them or sharing a verse God brings to mind. If the person seems open to discussing more, ask them, do you mind if I share what God has done in my life? You would be completely surprised to know how many people are open to hearing about the love of God in your life. Follow up with them too because you may be the catalyst that leads them to the cross.

The importance of your testimony is this:

If you do not know it, you cannot love Him.
If you do not love Him, you cannot live it.
If you cannot live it, others will not see it.
If others do not see it, they do not know they need it.
If they do not know they need it, they will not be freed by it.

If you know it, you love Him.
If you love Him, you live it.
If you live it, others see it.
If they see it, they will believe it.
If they believe it, they will need it.
If they need it, they will receive freedom.

Jesus said in John 15:16,

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Ask the Lord for people to be brought into your path to share the good news with, so all can know how to glorify God in a love relationship with Jesus.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

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I have greatly looked forward to writing this particular devotional. There are so many great stories in the bible. None in my opinion quite compare with the story of boldness I will share today. It has astounded me since the first time I learned of it as a child. Daniel 3 is quite lengthy. I’m going to give a brief cliff notes version of the story for some background information before looking at any specific parts of the text. I would encourage you to read the chapter at some point on your own because simply put, it is awesome.

There was a King named Nebuchadnezzar who was ruler of Babylon. In the beginning of Daniel, we are introduced to the man whom which the book is named after. Daniel was a servant of God unwilling to wavier in becoming as the world. He found favor in the eyes of the King as God gifted him with the ability to interpret dreams. Daniel’s story is profound in how the King became awestruck in the God Daniel served. Today I want to focus on three of his buddies; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

These three guys were appointed to oversee and assist affairs in the province of Babylon. Despite the King having confidence in Daniel’s God, he decided to build idols of gold for the people to worship. All the peoples in the land were commanded at the sound of any musical instrument, to fall down and worship the graven image the King created. This did not sit well with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Obviously the reason they got along so well with Daniel and won over his favor is because of their solid assurance in the Lord God Almighty as the One True God. Eventually some nosey bystanders saw the three in resistance to bowing down and worshiping this hunk of gold they called a god and decided to tattle to the King. As you might expect, the King was not pleased in their disinterest to obey. He gave the guys an ultimatum…bow down in worship or die a fiery death. The three stood firm in their convictions. They were not afraid for they had faith God would deliver them. So the story goes, they are bound and thrown into an exceptionally hot furnace and not only did God deliver them, but they walked away unsinged. Not even a scent of burning on them.

I cannot wait to dive further into this story. My summarizing is so meek in comparison to the words of scripture. Check out Daniel 3:16-18. The three respond to the threats of the king in this way,

“O, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

WOW! Can you imagine someone threatening to end your life unless you comply with their wishes and telling them, “NO.” I want to pump my fist every time I read this section and yell, “YEAH!” because I know what is about to happen and I get super psyched up knowing how greatly they angered the king. The king was so filled with anger, he ordered his officials to maximize the heat in the furnace seven times the original temperature. Then, our three friends were tied up and tossed in. The officials who threw them in were killed instantly because the heat could not be contained enough when the door of the furnace was opened. Nearly immediately after they are thrown in, this happens in verses 24-25,

“The King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.””

Again…awesome. Verse 26, the king finally gives credit to our God as the “Most High God.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are pulled out of the furnace and to everyone’s amazement, “The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them (verse 27).”

The King finally reconciles that the God of our guys is the only One worthy of sincere worship. At the very end of the chapter, King Nebuchadnezzar sets in place a new law demanding the worship of only the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Check out what he threatens the people with who refuse. Verse 29 says, “Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

God is so awesome. What would it look like for you to have the boldness of these three men? When Satan leads circumstances or people to guide you into temptation, why fear putting your foot down. The point of this entire story is summed up in two verses, Daniel 3:16-18. Look at it again:

“O, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The God I serve and the God you serve, is able. It does not matter what you are caught up in, He is able to deliver you from bondage, sinful past, lies you tell yourself and any temptation you are sucked into. He. Is. Able. Even if He does not deliver you from a trying circumstance and things do not turn in your favor, do not bow in order to appease the world. No matter where life attempts to overpower you, God able and you do not have to settle for less than what He desires for your life simply because it seems like the only foreseeable option at the moment. Do not bow.

The story ends with rejoicing. Although they could have died, they were delivered from evil and the king promoted the three to an even higher seat in the province of Babylon. You see, when you bow, you allow others to control who you are. When you refuse to bow and seek to please the only One that matters, God Almighty, the reward for your courage will be given.

Matthew 16:26 says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Sometimes people lose their life for standing firm in the Lord, but I guarantee, they are rewarded far greater than you or I could ever imagine by the Lord in His kingdom. Standing firm does not mean you will lose your life, but it does means God will be glorified and that is the point for our existence.

Matthew 10:32-33 says, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

Someday when I am no longer on this earth and am in the presence of my Lord in heaven, I look forward to meeting Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and hearing their story of how God lead them to victory that day.

Psalm 23

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Psalm 23,

“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me
All the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of
the Lord
forever.

When Christ redeems us, He becomes our shepherd. It is humorous that often in scripture, followers of Christ are referred to as sheep, since Jesus is referred to as the great shepherd. Sheep, if you think about it are not viewed as the smartest of animals. They get spooked quite easily and behave timidly. If left in a pasture all day to graze on grass they would be content to stay put and they tend to stick together to avoid being alone.

In the first paragraph of verses in this Psalm, it is easy to notice the sense of peace in the Psalmist’s words. When led by the Lord to lush areas to experience calm and soothing environments, it is easy to feel safe and joyful. When we feel satisfied and things are going our way, it is so easy to feel the presence of the Lord. When we get into challenging situations do we react with the same mentality?

Look at the second paragraph. Do you have confidence in God’s protection and comfort over your life where you could actually say those words and believe them wholeheartedly? When we walk through troubled times and encounter scary situations, it is easy to wonder where God is.

1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

Believing the words of verse 4 allows us to walk straight into battle unscathed, intentionally reliant on God’s control to take our fear away. When this happens, evil flees. It senses the presence of the Holy Spirit and it cannot touch us. It is imperative to remember the powerful hold the Holy Spirit has over evil. By neglecting to give credit to His power, it is easy for the “what if” questions to take over. God does not put any fear within us. Fear, most certainly is the work of the devil.

James 4:7-8 states, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

And

2 Timothy 1:7 graciously reminds, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

The last paragraph in this psalm speaks gently of the reward waiting to be received, for those who put trust in the Lord and give no credit to the enemy. Even in the midst of facing your enemies, peace should still be the reminder of God’s blessings over you. The anointing over with oil indicates blessings to be received. This goodness comes to those who follow Christ. It is only through faith in Christ, this assurance can be embraced. From salvation on, our fears and the evils threatening to control our being on earth have no power over us. The Lord speaks goodness and mercy over us and if we are faithful, we will dwell with Him forever.

When life gets tough and situations bring you fear, walk through them with your head held high with confidence knowing you are not alone. The same power that conquered the grave lives in you.

Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”